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A day with Egyptian mummies

The Mummy room is one of the major attractions of the Egyptian Museum, which reflects the ancient Egyptian history. The museum is one of the…

The Mummy room is one of the major attractions of the Egyptian Museum, which reflects the ancient Egyptian history. The museum is one of the globally acclaimed centres of incredible artifact and archeological relics.

Located in the northeastern side of Africa, Egypt is described as one of the most powerful civilisations in the world. The Egyptian museum, like others around the world, represents the over 3,000-year history of the ancient country.

For tourists in Egypt, the journey would not be complete without a visit to the Egyptian Museum, located in the country’s sprawling capital city, Cairo.

Under the auspices of Karnak, the Egypt Air’s travel agency subsidiary, some Nigerian tour operators recently visited the museum as part of the tour of the country. It was the first port of call.

It was on a Monday morning and the museum was bubbling with visitors from all over the world. Tourists kept trooping in and out throughout the day to savour the many stunning attractions of the museum, which has made Egypt a great country.

Located in a two-storey building, the Egyptian Museum has over 160,000 objects of antiquities, which, according to Ashraf Mahmud, our tour guide, is “a complete panorama for the Egyptian history.”

The tour started from the grand floor where there are thousands of collections of papyrus and coins used in the ancient times. Some of the pieces contained several languages such as Greek, Latin, Arabic, and ancient Egyptian language, which no visitor could comprehend.

Inside the museum were also artifacts and royal items of some of the famous kings and queens in Egypt, like the Ramses, the Tuthmosis, Tutankhamen, among others.

But within the museum were two mummy rooms which house the mummies of many ancient kings and queens, as well as Egyptian priests. It is a secluded section of the museum where photography was disallowed. As explained by our tour guide, the decision to ban photography was to show respect for the dead bodies (mummies) kept in the rooms.

Mummification, which is the process of preserving a dead body, is as old as Egypt. The practice, which lasted for more than two millennia, has deep spiritual dimension. As further corroborated by Mr. Mahmud, the Egyptians in the ancient times did not believe in the reality of death. The belief was that a deceased person had gone to join his/her God; therefore, they used mummification to prepare the deceased person for the afterlife.

Egyptian Museum
Egyptian Museum

“The kings, queens, priests never died. This was the belief of the ancient Egyptians. So mummification gave fillip to the afterlife envisaged for a deceased person; and instead of burying the deceased, they made buildings for them in the valleys of the kings where the bodies were kept,” he said.

The Mummies rooms, however, house mummies of kings and queens of succeeding generations in the ancient Egypt.

In the first Royal Mummies room visited by the team, comprising tour operators and journalists from Nigeria, are King Taa 11 (17th century); Queen Ahmose Meritamun (18th century); King Amenhotep 1, who also reigned in the 18th century and was the husband of Queen Ahmose; King Tuthmosis 1 (1550-1292 BC); King Tuthmosis 11 (1492-1479 BC); King Tuthmosis 111 (1479-1425 BC) and King Tuthmosis IV (1397-1388 BC).

Others include King Ramses 11, who reigned between 1279-1213 BC as one of the longest serving kings, spending about 67 years on the throne; King Merenpath (1213-1203 BC), the 13th son of Ramses; King Amenhotep 11 (1428-1397); King Seti 1, a pharaoh of the New Kingdom of the 19th century; King Ramses 111 (1183-1152BC); King Ramses IV (1152-1145 BC) and King Ramses V (1145-1142BC)

In the priesthood category, there were mummies of renowned priests of ancient Egypt, like the high priest of Amun Pinudjem 11.

The Egyptians’ practice of mummification was not only on human beings. Inside the museum are also mummies of sacred animals worshipped during their lifetimes as a personification of a god and buried amidst huge celebration. It was believed in ancient Egypt that the spirit of God would enter the body of a specially marked beast, and upon the animal’s death, would move to another animal, which also had special markings (such as scarab-shaped mark on its tongue, a triangle on its forehead).

There are also mummies of other animals as they were found by their excavators. These include mummies of falcon, hawk, crocodile, among others. But the mummification process of animals was different from that of human beings. For instance the mummy of a sacred ram inside the museum was provided with a wooden support to give it uplifted head and jaunty air. As with other such mummies, the tendons of this ram’s legs have been severed so it could be placed in a kneeling position, and it was stuffed by metres of cloth to retain its shape. It is further adorned with a bed-net on its back.

Also found in the museum was victual or food mummies, which consist of poultry or joints of meat that are wrapped in bandages and placed in tombs to provide food for the afterlife. As contained in the museum, most of the food mummies were placed in individual sycamore-wood ‘coffinets’ shaped in the form and dimensions of the meat; others were placed in reed baskets.

Tourists admiring one of the archaeological objects at the museum
Tourists admiring one of the archaeological objects at the museum

According to Ashraf Mahmud, any historian desirous of understanding the history of Egypt and all the dynasties and pharaohs that had ruled the country in the ancient times has dependable resources in the Egyptian Museum. For instance, he said many Egyptian mummies could be found in some European countries after being allegedly washed away.

“These mummies are the original bodies of great kings and queens who have ruled the country and fought many wars to liberate it. These mummies were found inside their tombs in the valleys of the kings and different places in Egypt. There are a lot of scientific studies concerning this,” he said.

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, under the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mahmud said, is working to open another Grand Museum in 2020, which would be the biggest museum in the world.

He said, “The museum is like an open book for all the Egyptian history from the so-called pre-historic periods to the Greek and Roman periods. We have seen the Mummies, we have seen those of the older kingdoms, the middle and the new kingdoms.

“So it is a complete panorama for the Egyptian history. It is like giving an overview of what we are going to see all over Egypt. There are 160,000 objects. We are building the biggest museum all over the world, named the Grand Museum. It is already near completion near the pyramids. The museum will be opened by the end of 2020. We have approximately 15m tourists that come in a year from  different nationalities – the Chinese, Americans, Indians.”

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